Producer Mahaveer Jain who just won the National Award for Chalo Jeete Hain talks to Titas Chowdhury about the big win, dealing with failure, the films that inspired him and his impressive upcoming projects
This is the second time that you won the National Award after Dekh Indian Circus! Did you have any inkling about bagging it for Chalo Jeete Hain?
Thank you so much! (Smiles) I had no inkling at all; it came across as a pleasant surprise. I came to know about the win much later. My director (Mangesh Hadawale) told me about it. A journalist messaged him to congratulate and that is how he came to know of it. He called him back to ask him what the ‘congratulations’ was for. The journalist then said to him, ‘Congratulations! Your film won the National Award.’ He was quite clueless as to which film won the award. We were very happy we won it for Chalo Jeete Hain. It’s a very special film because the thought that it conveys is very important.
What importance does this honour hold?
I don’t want to look at it from the perspective of my career. We all want people to appreciate our work. When you win the National Award, you feel that your work has been liked. Only well-deserving people get this. So we were happy that they thought of us as deserving enough. We felt that we must have done some good work. But our responsibility has increased now. We feel responsible to keep up the good work.
Be it Chalo Jeete Hain or the very recent, Khandaani Shafakhana, there are some social messages that they convey. How important do you think is it for films to make social commentary?
If you get a good story which is laced with social messages, it is like a cherry on the cake. It makes me happy to see that a film contains a message. We have decided as a policy that the films we produce must give out a positive social message along with being entertaining. We want to make healthy, family entertainers. We’re very clear about not making films that digress the youth on the wrong path. As a filmmaker, I believe that films impact society. The youth wants to copy the hero who is seen smoking in the film. Youngsters like following what is being shown on screen. I believe in freedom of art and expression, but at the same, it’s important to be responsible for what we’re putting out because it can impact the minds of scores of people.
I became part of the movies because I’ve seen the kind of impact that films like 3 Idiots, Taare Zameen Par, the Munna Bhai series and Rang De Basanti had. They are so much more than films; they stirred something within us. Many people told me that films changed their perspective about life. With films, we’ve the power to positively impact the mindset of the audience.
Now that Chalo Jeete Hain has won the National Award, do you plan to give it a wider release?
We’ll be very happy if Chalo Jeete Hain gets a wider release. Star had released the film. We hope that they re-release it. It will keep running, thanks to satellite. The film has been shot with a lot of emotions and directed very sensitively. The message it imparts is simple and yet impactful. The thought behind it is, ‘Hum kiske liye jeete hain?’ I’ve met so many people who after watching the film have thought about the fact as to who they are living for. We become so busy with our lives that we’ve no time to ponder on things like these. The film says that we should learn to live for others, think about others and do things for them. It is about keeping ‘me’ and ‘I’ on the side. The film is based on true events. It connected with people because it was made with a lot of honesty and innocence. We were very clear about keeping the film authentic and we did a lot of homework to achieve that. When I heard the script for the first time, I didn’t know that it’s the story of our Prime Minister; we just wanted to make a short film that aims at social transformation. My director read about the story in a book and then narrated it to me. I loved it. In the story, a ten-year-old boy asks himself, his family and his teachers, ‘Hum kiske liye jeete hain?’ He finds the answer in a quote by Swami Vivekananda that says, ‘They alone live, who live for others’. The boy applies that to his life and helps a fellow classmate. For the last 60 years, our PM has been living like that. We feel lucky that we got to make this film.
What can you tell us about your film based on the lives of NR Narayana Murthy and Sudha Murthy?
Yes, I’m collaborating with Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, who is an amazing director, and Nitesh Tiwari, who is a very close friend, for a film inspired from the lives of NR Narayana Murthy and Sudha Murthy. We are still in the process of developing it. It is too early to talk about it. The concept came from Sanjay Tripathi, a friend. He did extensive research on their lives. He has been of immense creative help.
As a producer, are you creatively involved in the making of a film?
I’m a creative person; I’m not a typical producer. I’m not a businessman and I don’t understand it. I make decisions from the heart. For me, the job of a producer is to choose good stories to tell and a good team and atmosphere to make them. I’m simply following this chain.
How do you deal with setbacks when your films do not perform according to your expectations? What is your biggest learning from it?
Filmmaking is a creative field. I got to learn a lot of things from Aamir Khan saab and Raju (Rajkumar) Hiraniji who are my very good friends. They are such amazing people. I hold them in high regard. What I learnt from them is to never be over-confident about your work; self-doubt is very important. You can go wrong at any point. It is also essential to be a good listener. You must listen to what people are saying and observe how people are reacting. You should not be too stubborn and arrogant if you want to survive in the industry. You need to be welcoming to new ideas and take decisions with a calm mind. Disappointment and failure are part of your journey so you should not be upset about them. Some of the biggest people face disappointment. It is in the nature of this field. But you have to keep trying to give it your best, work hard and be honest.
Is there any plan of foraying into the digital space?
We are open to all mediums because every medium has its own plus. We will opt for a medium according to the requirement of the stories that we are working on. At the end of the day, our aim is to reach out to the audience whether through mobile phone applications or the big screen. The medium should not matter. The story is the deciding factor when it comes to the medium, the actors and the team.
What is in the pipeline?
We have three to four films which have respected names attached to them. They are the stories of some prestigious people and so we have this big responsibility on our shoulders. One of them is the story of Murthy saab and Sudhaji. I can tell you that the films that I’m producing are with the four most talented and creative people of the industry. Now that they have liked the film subjects, I feel very confident that the larger audience will love them too.